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But the storm of protests and shouting matches stirred up in recent days -- centered on chatter about prostitutes, gays and lesbians, and sex abusers in cassocks -- surprised even the most scandal-hardened veterans. Police Superintendent Miguel Pereira underestimated the intense criticism he got for suggesting that Puerto Rico should consider legalizing prostitution. His offhanded comments came while talking about men arrested for trying to pick up prostitutes in the suburban city of Guaynabo and a melee in and outside of a shady San Juan strip club that left six drunken Marines injured.
He even talked about establishing a "red zone" where these types of places would be concentrated, a control mechanism used in several Latin American cities.
That didn't sit well with Gov. Sila Calderon, who responded with a curt "no" to the idea. Radio-show listeners called in to demand Pereira's resignation, and religious leaders said some not-so-kind things about his brain matter.
But the moralist rhetoric, others said, did nothing to solve the problems that bring women and men to sell their bodies. A radio talk-show host detailed for her listeners the achievements -- particularly in the health area -- of the international prostitute movements. Another welcomed the controversy because it stirred a debate that could educate. Not so with the headlines about sex abuse by priests. No sooner did Monsignor Roberto Gonzalez Nieves, archbishop of San Juan, announce more-thorough probes of sexual-abuse allegations than four cases sprout in different parts of the island.
Some of the alleged victims apparently followed the archbishop's advice and went directly to the police. That way the church couldn't be accused of hiding anything, Gonzalez said. But it also sends a clear message to the island's bishops that the public is watching how they handle this, he said. But even more controversial was talk about a law that is almost never applied. In public hearings to extensively revise Puerto Rico's Penal Code, the sodomy law was one of the most-disputed points.